Troubled Toby Keith's bar in Rosemont could close Saturday
Rosemont officials announced Wednesday they're planning to replace Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill with another country-inspired venue, a joint venture of Joe's Bar on Weed Street and Lettuce Entertain You's Bub City, expected to open in the spring.
The news comes a day before an eviction hearing in which a judge could make Toby Keith's shut its doors as early as Saturday.
The establishment's anticipated closing comes amid similar bad fortune for other Toby Keith's locations across the country. Bars in Phoenix, Denver, Orlando, Cincinnati, Houston, Minnesota, Virginia and California all shut their doors in recent months, many of which failed to pay taxes and rent.
Besides the Rosemont location, the only other Toby Keith's locations still listed on the bar/restaurant's website are in Foxborough, Massachusetts and Auburn Hills, Michigan.
With Toby Keith's on its way out, the village board Wednesday approved a lease with Rosemont Ventures LLC, the joint venture between Joe's Bar and Bub City. Both existing Chicago bar/restaurants are country-themed.
Mayor Brad Stephens said the new venue's concept will focus on country, but it won't be limited to that.
Phoenix-based Boomtown Entertainment, which owns Toby Keith's bar, owes $311,595 in Cook County real estate taxes for 2014 -- including some $24,000 in late fees, according to the Cook County Treasurer's Office.
Stephens said the business also owes Rosemont $125,000 in October rent for the 32,900-square-foot space in the village entertainment district.
Local managers of the country megabar had asked Stephens for a second chance in August, after submitting checks for unpaid property taxes, sales taxes and rent. They hoped the village would extend their lease beyond its current Dec. 31 expiration date.
But on Wednesday, Toby Keith's Rosemont General Manager Larry Vanni said a check he received from the company's corporate offices ended up coming from a closed account.
Now some 170 full- and part-time employees could be out of a job.
Boomtown CEO Frank Capri wouldn't discuss the company's financial issues, but said Wednesday he's seeking new legal counsel "to see what my options are in this situation in Rosemont."
"I think a lot of people are going to be frustrated if this bar closes," Capri said.
Vanni said he was aware of the possible closure because of the Cook County court hearing scheduled for Thursday morning.
Rosemont's attorneys hope the judge allows the village to take possession of the property. If the judge rules in their favor, Stephens could schedule a village hearing to be held 48 hours later to take away the bar's liquor and business licenses.
Toby Keith's would have to close by the end of the day Saturday, the mayor said.
"It's sad because it's people's livelihoods there," he added.
Village officials hope to give their prospective tenants a formal walk-through of the existing location, in preparation for renovations that are expected to take place.
Joe's Bar owner Ed Warm booked acts for Rosemont's Country in the Park free summer concert series in the entertainment district. He was named 2015 Promoter of the Year by the Academy of Country Music.
Stephens expects the new Rosemont bar/restaurant to do $13 million to $15 million in sales per year. He believes Toby Keith's was "underperforming" with $9.5 million worth of annual sales.
The new venue could be open by late spring 2016, Stephens said.